The war in Gaza and the (real) road to peace

This week, Ireland, Spain, and Norway announced that they would soon recognize Palestinian statehood. According to CNN, “Hamas, the militant group which governs Gaza, urged other countries to follow suit and ‘recognize our legitimate national rights, support the struggle of our people for liberation and independence, and end the Zionist occupation of our land.’”

The terrible realization we are facing now is that Hamas has, in many respects, won, at least in the public opinion arena. No wonder so many around the world consider the 7th of October’s barbaric attack on Israel as a success.

Also this week, on the very same day as the declaration by the three European states, a new horrifying video, documenting some glimpses of the 7th of October attack, has been released by families of hostages. The video shows the first moments of the capture of Israeli female soldiers by Hamas. 15 women soldiers were killed by Hamas invaders in this Israeli border outpost that is the focus of this video, and seven others were taken from there alive into Gaza. It is well known that they have been suffering the most terrible treatment. These moments documented in the video were only the beginning of the most brutal and cruelest attack Israel has ever suffered.

This video is released to the public because the families of the hostage girls believe that not enough is being done to get them out of captivity.

I couldn’t watch the video, but I saw some still footage from the video. It shows the most terrible nightmare of every human being. Young girls, aged around 18-19, hurt, exposed, with no protection, in the hands of armed men, intoxicated by their violence, who spit in the face of humanist civilization. No mercy nor grace in sight.

There are still now more than 120 hostages – most of them civilians! –held by Hamas and other groups in Gaza.

And this is the bottom line, where it all started and where it can and should end. The immediate release of the hostages. We can discuss justice, freedom, fairness. These are all important questions, but facing the pictures of the hostages, young and old, the only thing we should do is work as best we can and with all our powers, to get these people out of captivity. Once that will happen, the war will end, this way or the other – it will end. This is what started the war and that is how it could end. Anyone who says otherwise is wrong or is lying.

Unfortunately, the decision made by Norway, Spain and Ireland leads us toward a very different path, one that is dominated by Hamas’s fundamentalist aspirations and not by peace.

It is true that the government of Israel bears responsibility to its citizens, a task which it had completely failed to do properly, but the fact is that these hostages are held by the Palestinian organization of Hamas. They are the ones who started and caused the war, by invading Israel, by not releasing the hostages, by treating the Israelis who they captured as they did, by terrorizing Israel.

On this note, despite the fact that I think Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a total and utter disaster, devastating Israel and participating in the devastation of the region, I also think that it is a despicable decision by the ICC to equate him and his security minister, Yoav Gallant, to Hamas leaders. Hamas and its leaders have willfully placed themselves outside the Western civilized world (which they despise and which they do not see themselves part of) and its rules of conduct – nurturing hopeless fundamentalist hate and sending young men to torture, rob, massacre as many Israelis as possible and to document their acts in doing so. The ICC’s decision is a tainted decision, driven by dishonesty and supported by general cowardice.

Israel and the free world must protect themselves against the world and values that are presented and reflected by Hamas, which is the governing force in Gaza, and has been ruling the strip ever since the elections of 2006. This political fact is important because just as the war and the crimes that are part of it are rightly seen as the responsibility of Israeli society, one cannot detach Hamas and its doctrines from the historical choices of Palestinian society, which historically and consistently preferred armed struggle over political compromise. The 7th of October is part of Palestinian political culture, and that is a fact. You could claim the same about Israel and the war against Hamas. Both sides bear full responsibility for their leadership’s actions.

Accountability and responsibility are the first real steps for peace. Both sides bear blame for the current atrocities that started on October 7th. The continuous allegations levelled against Israel and Israel alone are not only wrong but harmful. Now is the time for every decent person to support the release of the hostages, and call for the end of the war which has to be supported by international involvement and a true commitment of Israelis and the Palestinians to sustain peace and build mutual commitments in the region. This can only be achieved based on mutual respect and the courage to look toward an inevitable future together, as neighbours with mutual responsibilities to one another.

About the Author
Rhona Burns is a historian of ideas (Ph.D.), currently a Fulbright research fellow at Harvard University's Center for Jewish Studies, an expert on Jewish nationalism, and a researcher of nationalism at large. She is Israeli, and until September 2023, lived in Jerusalem and Haifa with her family (she was born in 1987, married, and a mother to a child). In the past, she has published critiques, op-eds, short stories, and poetry in many news outlets in Israel, including Haaretz, Maariv, Local Call, +972, The Jerusalem Post, and others (mostly in Hebrew). Over the years, she has also worked as a newspaper editor and high-school teacher in Israel.
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